Jesus asks, “Who Do You Say I Am?” in Matthew 16:13-16, Mark 8:27-29, and Luke 9:18-20. In all three accounts, Jesus first asks, “Who do people say I am?” (Mark 8:27) or “Who do the crowds say I am?” (Luke 9:18).
This question is a lot more complicated than it might seem. Their answer wasn’t just “Jesus.” It was so much more. At some point in all of our lives, we are faced with a similar question. If we were totally honest with ourselves, who do we say Jesus really is? Do we just know about Jesus in a more intellectual manner or do we really know Him as a friend, as our personal Lord and Savior. Who is Jesus, A prophet? A moral teacher? A heretic? The Son of God? His questions were aimed at provoking the disciples to seriously consider their own personal level of faith.
I feel so many of us just kid ourselves as to who we think Jesus really is. If we truly feel that Jesus is our Lord and Savior and have accepted him as such, if we are really sincere then we must be bearing the fruits of that decision. One of the very first change that we should notice is a different perspective on life. Risqué jokes that used to be funny are no longer funny. Friends that were living in the world and of the world no longer have the same appeal that they used to be our friends and things that we used to do that were of the world no longer have the appeal that they used to. We should also be obtaining an increased hunger to learn about Christ, to study the Bible, and to become active and local “Bible believing church.” I use this term in all sincerity because even the apostle Paul warned us about false teachers and religions.
In John 21:15 Jesus is asking John another instance where Jesus asks a similar question. Here again Jesus is him/us if we really love him. Shortly after being raised from the dead, Jesus met Peter. The translations that we use can be very confusing in the fact that we only have one word for love. Language can tell you a great deal about a culture.
Any group of adults in the U.S. can probably come up with many words for money. However, we tend to use the same word to describe many different aspects of another concept: love. We love our mothers, pizza, baseball, spouses and children, all the time using the same word to describe these relationships! The one word, love, does not mean the same thing in all these situations. To avoid confusion, let’s look at some Greek words that served to distinguish between some of these different kinds of love.
Definitions of the Greek Words for Love:
Agapeo: Unconditional love; the love of God in the renewed mind in manifestation
Phileo: Love between friends
Eros: The sense of being in love; romantic love
Storge: Love of family; Parent/child, siblings, cousins, etc. In a very close family, agape is felt as well.
Mania; The word “lust” is probably not a strong enough translation – “obsession” is closer to the original meaning.
In John 21:15 Jesus is asking John if he loves Him. Here is the short version of what they said to each other:
Jesus: Simon…do you love (agape) me more than these [fish?].
Peter: Yes, Lord; you know that I love (phileo) you.
Jesus: Simon…do you…love (agape) me?
Peter: Yes, Lord, you know that I love (phileo) you.
Jesus: Simon…do you love (phileo) me?
Peter: [Grieved] “Lord…you know that I love (phileo) you.”
In this example, you can clearly see how using the simple word “love” has obscured the true deeper meaning of their conversation. There is a whole different level of commitment that is being discussed here by Jesus versus Peter.
Why did Jesus use agape and Peter use phileo? Jesus was asking Peter if he loved him with the love of God, a love that may require sacrifice. After all, Jesus had just gone through horrendous torture for Peter’s sake (and ours), something he did not want to do but did anyway because of his agape love.
In contrast, Peter avoided possible torture by denying Jesus. Jesus twice asked Peter, “Do you agape me?” That is, are you willing to do things for my sake that you do not want to do?
The main principle that sets Christianity apart from every other religion is our belief that the supreme God of the universe took on human flesh, lived among us, and then, in His immense love, died that we might be forgiven and have eternal life.
If we are willing to claim Jesus as Lord and submit ourselves to Him, we are invited to live with Him forever. This is something no prophet, teacher, or revolutionary can offer. Are we willing to accept the great power and love of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God? We must remember the two of the promises Jesus made is first that there will be trials and tribulations and second that if we truly give our lives to him he will always be there for us.
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